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Water Pepper

Edible Edible Autumn Autumn Spring Spring Summer Summer

This common but inconspicuous freshwater plant lives at the edges of rivers. Its young leaves and growing tips can be added to a dish during cooking (as a freshwater plant it needs to be cooked) as a pepper substitute.

Hedgerow Type
Common Names Water Pepper, Water Pepper, Smartweed, Arse smart, Marsh Pepper, Tade.
Scientific Name Persicaria hydropiper
Season Start Jun
Season End Oct
Please note that each and every hedgerow item you come across may vary in appearance to these photos.


Lance shaped leaves with fine hairs along the edge


Tiny pink flowers on upright or nodding stems from July to September.

Flower Buds

The flower buds are green but similar in size and shape to the flowers.


Water Pepper grows in damp ditches, stream edges, puddles or anywhere wet.

Possible Confusion

There are no dangerous lookalikes but many of the Persicaria genus are hard to distinguish, with 9 different species and many hybrids. Redshank (Persicaria maculosa) is a common weed but inhabits drier areas than Water-pepper. Its flower spikes do not droop, it has red on the stems, and often dark areas on the leaves. Tasteless Water-pepper is very similar but lacks the pungent taste. Pale and Small Water-pepper are both very similar but with upstanding flower spikes. The clearest way to distinguish the water pepper is the hot taste of the leaves (once cooked if there is any chance they have been in the water).


The leaves are hot or acrid thus the name water pepper.


Common throughout British Isles

Other Facts

This has many common names, several alluding to its acrid taste, arse smart and smartweed.
Water Pepper is in the same group as japanese knotweed and a close relative of the common weed, redshank. 


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